The SAC, or the Student Affairs’ Council, IIT-M’s highest student decision-making body, is required to be functioning optimally at all times to ensure that the students’ welfare is never compromised. To that effect, a smooth transition from the old, experienced council to the new, enthusiastic one is imperative, and the Old-New SAC meeting is an attempt to aid that transition. The old council officially passes the baton at this meeting, and the new council takes up its first SAC agenda.
Additionally, this year’s meeting was witness to the first ever oath-taking ceremony. A practice that will be continued in the future, it was performed by all the Secretaries and Councilors of the SAC. The videos of the Secretaries’ oaths can be found here, and the collective oath of all the Councilors can be found here.
The agenda for this year’s Old-New SAC meeting was small, and hence it lasted less than two and a half hours, a fraction of the time the SAC usually takes to deliberate on issues in regular meetings. The meeting began behind closed doors ‘due to the discretion of the issues being discussed’, as the SAC took up the Saarang fund misappropriation issue. The new SAC Speaker, Pallavi Chakravorty, pointed out that this was the first time that the SAC was kept in the loop throughout such a controversy and was actively involved in deciding the quantum of punishment for the perpetrators. The Dean of Students, Prof L S Ganesh, later commented that although there had been major issues before — for example in 1980-81, when some Secretaries swindled over one lakh rupees — the SAC had never been as involved in the investigation as this time. A few suggestions to prevent such crises from happening again were put forward. The idea of having a ‘Devil’s Advocate’ in the team, who would anonymously keep an eye on the goings-on within the Core group and report abuse of authority to the administration, was rejected by the SAC. It was felt that this would foster suspicions amongst the members towards each other, leading to inefficient functioning. There also was uncertainty about how effective this measure would be, given how much peer pressure each member is usually subject to. Finally, the SAC passed four recommendations, including having an official treat budget, pertaining to this issue. The Dean recommended that these treats be named ‘Annual Dinner Review Meetings’ to certify their official sanction.
The meeting was opened to the GSB (General Students’ Body) at this point. Pallavi informed the new SAC council of their responsibilities via a presentation. This was followed by the Dean’s address and the old SAC Speaker, Satwik, updating the new SAC on the old SAC’s activities and decisions. Then, the new Executive Wing and SAC Councillors took an oral oath administered by the Dean, signalling the official change of guard.
The solitary point on the new SAC’s agenda pertained to an electoral irregularity in this year’s Institute election. One of the candidates in the fray was officially endorsed in a meeting by an Institute team and ended up winning. A group of students filed a complaint against this, as they felt that the electorate had been swayed by such an endorsement. On further investigation, it was revealed that this practice had become the norm for quite a few years. Since there was no official rule prohibiting it, the candidate was let off with a warning. The first-year MBA Councillor proposed that Institute bodies be barred from proposing and endorsing candidates for any post in their official capacity. The students behind this complaint also felt that were this proposal rejected, although there is an Institute rule that states that a student cannot be a part of any students union/party, the possibility of partisan activities would become real. The SAC deliberated on the issue for some time, due to a lack of clarity in distinguishing between a person’s personal and official capacities. The Dean clarified that personal views would be protected at all costs. The SAC then decided to pass the proposal.